The 1983 film based on the 1967 book is a faithful adaptation overall, but as with most movie versions, there is still more in the book that the movie had to leave out. The Outsiders from Francis Ford Coppola certainly achieves the same feeling as the book as the cast captures each of the characters they’re portraying successfully.
The coming-of-age story centers on Ponyboy Curtis who has grown up as part of the “Greaser” group who has a natural rivalry with the “Soc” group and the story begins with a murder in self-defense causing Ponyboy and Greaser friend Johnny Cade to go on the run. The film and book tell the story of young teens trying to grow up among the violence and circumstance.
Updated on April 8th, 2021 by Kristen Palamara: Although movie adaptations of popular and classic books are released every year and there have even been multiple adaptations of books like The Great Gatsby and almost every book by Jane Austen, but there’s only been one movie adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. The 1983 movie adaptation is so good that it’s typically shown in high schools while students read the book and although it’s a strong adaptation of course there will be some differences between the book and the movie, and the movie still misses some of the charm, emotion, and engaging side plots that the book provides.
15 Greaser Side Vs Soc Side
The main fighting and hatred between the Greasers and the Socs is just as strong in the movie as it is in the book, but the details about the locations of the groups are changed for the movie.
The book describes the Greasers as controlling the poorer East side of town while the Socs control the wealthier West side. The movie says the Greasers are on the North side of town and the Socs are on the South side of town.
14 Sandy And Soda’s Relationship
One of the main recurring side plots in the book is Soda’s relationship with Sandy, but she doesn’t appear in the movie at all. Soda was sure he and Sandy would get married but when Sandy becomes pregnant she’s sent to live with her grandmother and it’s assumed that they won’t be getting back together.
It’s a catalyst for a lot of Soda’s issues he has to deal with as a character and attributes to his building frustration to being stuck in the middle of Darry and Pony constantly fighting because he no longer has a person outside of the family he can turn to when he needs to vent.
13 Darry Fighting For Custody
A main worry of the eldest Curtis brother is being able to keep custody of his two younger brothers, but this plot line is hardly mentioned in the movie.
There are a few lines here and there where Darry voices his concern about being able to provide and take care of Soda and Pony and that he worries Child Protective Services will take them away from him, but the movie never fully shows his struggle or emphasizes this in Darry’s character in the movie.
12 Ponyboy’s Introduction Scene
The introduction of Ponyboy in the book and in the movie are completely different and there’s not a clear reason why it was changed for the movie as it’s arguably a weaker introduction in the movie than it is in the book.
The book sees Ponyboy on his own at the beginning and almost getting mugged by the Socs and the Greasers show up to save him, but in the movie Ponyboy is with Dally and Johnny and don’t really interact with the Socs at all.
11 *Ponyboy’s School Project
The book makes it clear that Ponyboy is writing his story for a school project while the movie never fully specifies why Ponyboy is telling the audience his story. The book emphasizes the fact that Ponyboy’s a great writer and student, but the movie never delves into this character development.
The book has a storyline dedicated to a teacher reaching out to Ponyboy to support him and make sure he’s able to finish his assignment when he’s struggling after the events of the fire, but none of that happens in the movie either.
10 The Curtis Boys’ Parents
Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) discusses his parents, who died in a car crash leaving the three siblings to fend for themselves, heavily throughout the book.
He constantly thinks and talks about them and tends to compare himself and his two brothers to their mother and father. The film doesn’t really mention their parents and instead focuses on where the boys are now without much mention of their past when their parents were alive.
9 Darry’s Role Is Smaller
Darry (Patrick Swayze) is Ponyboy’s eldest brother who acts as a surrogate father to both Sodapop and Ponyboy after their parents’ death. Darry is a stern but constant presence in Ponyboy’s life and he talks about him and their rocky relationship frequently throughout the book.
The book lays out their difficult relationship and how Ponyboy truly thinks that Darry hates him, which makes their reunion at the hospital after the fire more emotional in the book than it does in the film.
8 The Courtroom Scene Finale
The book ends with a courtroom scene that has Ponyboy take the stand regarding Johnny killing Bob the Soc and about his home life with Darry and Sodapop.
The film mentions that after the killing in self-defense and the fire the only thing that the authorities really cared about was making sure that Ponyboy had a stable home life living with his brothers, but it doesn’t show any of the ending courtroom scenes where Ponyboy explains he’s happiest with his brothers.
7 Blonde Hair Vs Black Hair
The book describes the Greasers as having all different types of hair color, some even having blonde hair including Dally whose hair is described as almost white, but the movie chooses to give more distinction between the Greasers and the Socs by giving the Greasers dark black hair and the Socs lighter hair colors.
It’s not a significant difference to the plot and visually on the screen, it makes sense as a further representation of the rivalry between the two groups, but it’s still odd reading Dally’s description and comparing Matt Dillon’s look to the description.
6 Sodapop’s Significance To Ponyboy
The film chooses to focus more on Ponyboy and Johnny’s relationship than focusing on Ponyboy’s relationship with his older brothers Darry and in particular Sodapop (Rob Lowe). Ponyboy isn’t very close to his oldest brother Darry and thinks that Darry hates him even though Darry’s roughness is more about him caring for and wanting to protect Ponyboy but he is incredibly close to Sodapop.
Soda tends to keep the peace between Darry and Pony and much of the book is dedicated to Ponyboy writing about his love and admiration for his brother, which is pretty absent in the film version.
5 Clearly Explaining Johnny’s Past
The book spends a long time discussing Johnny Cade’s (Ralph Macchio) life and past events, particularly being jumped by a group of Socs in a blue Mustang, the same Soc he stabs to protect Ponyboy, which has turned him into a nervous wreck.
The film alludes to this event and to his abusive home life that leads to his nervous demeanor, but it’s not as clear as it is in the book and the little clues in the film might be missed if the viewer isn’t familiar with his backstory.
4 Dally’s Role Is Bigger
The film decides to focus more on Dally (Matt Dillon) and his relation to Johnny and Ponyboy as he helps them go on the run after Johnny kills Bob the Soc.
All of the same events happen in the book where the two go to Dally for help, but since the film doesn’t focus on Ponyboy’s brothers Darry and Soda as much the film including all of Dally’s scenes shifts the focus to him, giving him a bigger role in comparison.
3 No Rodeos
The book mentions local rodeos multiple times and talks about how Sodapop wanted to own a horse called Mickey Mouse and was crushed when the horse was sold to another farm.
The stories work to contextualize the Oklahoma setting of the story, but the rodeos are never mentioned in the film. Although it’s a small detail, it did provide characterization for Sodapop and provided a strong sense of location.
2 Ponyboy Shutting Down After The Fire
In the book, Ponyboy has an incredibly difficult time dealing with the events of the past few days and the death of both Johnny and Dally. It’s completely understandable that he shuts down and becomes sick both physically and mentally after learning Johnny died from his injuries during the fire and Dally was killed by the police.
He becomes distraught, sleeping for days, and continually claiming that he was the one who killed Bob, not Johnny. The film only chooses to show him physically hurting from his injuries during the fire and fighting through it so he can go to the rumble with the Socs.
1 Ponyboy’s Narration And Missing Moments
The film does provide a lot of narration from Ponyboy, but it misses some insightful moments that the book covers through Ponyboy’s inner thoughts and is able to quickly establish his voice as a narrator, which the film struggles to do at times.
There are small moments in the book that are left out of the film, like Ponyboy breaking a glass bottle to threaten a Soc but picking up the glass after so no one gets a flat tire, that is left out of the movie and makes Ponyboy’s character a little more difficult to understand.